May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so we wanted to take a moment to educate our patients on the signs and symptoms of a stroke as well as the preventative measures you can take to help lower your risk.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply is blocked to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. This “brain attack” can be very dangerous and lead to severe brain damage, disability, and in some cases, death.
While it is possible for anyone to have a stroke, there are certain factors such as age and certain medical conditions that can increase your likelihood of having a stroke. The key to prevention is understanding your risk and taking the appropriate measures to manage your condition.
Some common conditions that are associated with elevated risk of stroke include:
- A history of stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Sickle cell disease
There are additional risk factors that are associated with stroke that are mostly dependent on your genetic makeup and family history. While these factors are out of your control, understanding that you are at a higher risk is important for prevention. These risk factors include:
- Sex- Stroke is less common in men than it is in women, and women are more likely to die from a stroke than men. Women who use birth control pills or pregnant women are at an increased risk for stroke.
- Age– Your risk for stroke increases with age. After the age of 55, your chance of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years.
- Race or ethnicity– Some races and ethnicities that are at an increased risk of stroke include Blacks, Hispanics, Alaska Natives, and American Indians.
- Family history– Those who have a family history of stroke or other common risk factors may also be at an increased risk.
As we mentioned, the key to prevention is managing any conditions that put you at a higher risk for stroke and/or taking the appropriate steps to prevent developing conditions that could put you at a higher risk. These preventative measures are especially important for those over the age of 55 and those who are genetically predisposed to an increased risk of stroke.
Some of the best preventative measures you can take include eating a healthy diet low in sodium, exercising regularly, and managing your weight. These healthy habits are important to lowering cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and preventing heart disease amongst various other health benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at these healthy lifestyle changes you can make today to help in your prevention.
- Diet– In addition to eating foods that are low in sodium, you also want to make sure your diet is low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol. Including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as foods that are high in fiber is also important.
- Exercise– Being physically active is essential to helping maintain a healthy weight and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Adults should get 2 and a half hours of exercise each week and children and teenagers should get at least 1 hour of physical activity a day.
- Don’t Smoke– Smoking is another lifestyle habit that greatly increases your risk for stroke. If you are a smoker, we encourage you to strongly consider quitting as it can lower your risk of stroke. If you need help quitting, contact us today. We can help provide you the appropriate resources to make the quitting process successful.
- Limit Alcohol Intake– Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and put you at an increased risk of stroke. According to the CDC, women should have no more than one drink a day and men should have no more than two.
- Manage Any Conditions– If you have one of the conditions we listed that put you at an increased risk for stroke, it is important that you manage these conditions as directed by your doctor. Maintaining regular check-ups, taking medication as prescribed, and treating any new symptoms is essential to keeping your condition under control and preventing any additional risk for stroke. Routine testing such as blood cholesterol testing and blood pressure testing is also important to being up-to-date on the status of your condition. Talk with your doctor about how frequently you should be having these tests and what you can do to improve your numbers.
Here at Transform Your Health PLLC, we truly care about the well being of our patients. If you have any questions about stroke prevention or how you can better reduce your risk, contact Transform Your Health, PLLC today.